Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.

Mecklenburg-Schwerin returns six members to the Reichstag and Mecklenburg-Strelitz one member. q

ln Mecklenburg-Schwerin the chief towns are Rostock (with a university), Schwerin, and Wismar the capital. The capital of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is N eu-Strelitz. The peasantry of Mecklenburg retain traces of their Slavonic origin, especially in speech, but their peculiarities have been much modified by amalgamation with German colonists. The townspeople and nobility are almost wholly of Saxon strain. The slowness of the increase in population is chiefly accounted for by emigration.

H istary.-The Teutonic peoples, who in the time of Tacitus occupied the region now known as Mecklenburg, were succeeded in the 6th century by some Salvonic tribes, one of these being the Obotrites, whose chief fortress was Michilenburg, the modern Mecklenburg, near Wismar; hence the name of the country. Though partly subdued by Charlemagne towards the close of the 8th century, they soon regained their independence, and until the 10th century no serious effort was made by their Christian neighbours to subject them. Then the German king, Henry the Fowler, reduced the Slavs of Mecklenburg to obedience and introduced Christianity among them. During the period of weakness through which the German kingdom passed under the later Ottos, however, they wrenched themselves free from this bondage; the 11th and the early part of the 12th century saw the ebb and flow of the tide of conquest, and then came the effective subjugation of Mecklenburg by Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. The Obotrite prince Niklot was killed in battle in 1160 whilst resisting the Saxons, but his son Pribislaus (d. 1178) submitted to Henry the Lion, married his daughter to the son of the duke, embraced Christianity, and was permitted to retain his office. His descendants and successors, the present grand dukes of Mecklenburg, are the only ruling princes of Slavonic origin in Germany. Henry the Lion introduced German settlers and restored the bishoprics of Ratzeburg and Schwerin; in II7O the emperor Frederick I. made Pribislaus a prince of the empire. From 1214 to 1227 Mecklenburg was under the supremacy of Denmark; then, in 1229, after it had been regained by the Germans, there took place the first of the many divisions of territory which with subsequent reunions constitute much of its complicated history. At this time the country was divided between four princes, grandsons of duke Henry Borwin, who had died two years previously. But in less than a century the families of two of these princes became extinct, and after dividing into three branches a third family suffered the same fate in 1436. There then remained only the line ruling in Mecklenburg proper, and the princes of this family, in addition to inheriting the lands of their dead kinsmen, made many additions to their territory, including the counties of Schwerin and of Strelitz. In 1352 the two princes of this family made a division of their lands, Stargard being separated from the rest of the country to form a principality for John (d. 1393), but on the extinction of his line in 1471 the whole of Mecklenburg was again united under a single ruler. One member of this family, Albert (c. 1338-1412), was king of Sweden from 1364 to 1389. In 1348 the emperor Charles IV. had raised Mecklenburg to the rank of a duchy, and in 1418 the university of Rostock was founded.

The troubles which arose from the rivalry and jealousy of two or more joint rulers incited the prelates, the nobles and the burghcrs to form a union among themselves, and the results of this are still visible in the existence of the Landesunion for the whole country which was established in 1 523. About the same time the teaching of Luther and the reformers was welcomed in Mecklenburg, although Duke Albert (d. 1547) soon reverted to the Catholic faith; in 1549 Lutheranism was recognized as the state religion; a little later the churches and schools were reformed and most of the monasteries were suppressed. A division of the land which took place in 1555 was of short duration, but a more important one was effected in 1611, although Duke John Albert I. (d. 1576) had introduced the principle of primogeniture and had forbidden all further divisions of territory. By this partition John Albert's grandson Adolphus Frederick I. (d. 1658) received Schwerin, and another grandson John Albert II. (d. 1636) received Gtistrow. The town of Rostock “ with its university and high court of justice ” was declared to be common property, while the Diet or Landtag also retained its joint character, its meetings being held alternately at Sternberg and at Malchin.

During the early part of the Thirty Years' War' the dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Giistrow were on the Protestant side, but about 1627 they submitted to the emperor Ferdinand II. This did not prevent Ferdinand from promising their land to Wallenstein, who, having driven out the dukes, was invested with the duchies in 1629 and ruled them until 1631. In this year the former rulers were restored by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and in 1635 they came to terms with the emperor and signed the peace of Prague, but their land continued to be ravaged by both sides until the conclusion of the war. In 1648 by the Treaty of Westphalia, Wismar and some other parts of Mecklenburg were surrendered to Sweden, the recompense assigned to the duchies, including the secularized bishoprics of Schwerin and of Ratzeburg. The sufferings of the peasants in Mecklenburg during the Thirty Years' War were not exceeded by those of their class in any other part of Germany; most of them were reduced to a state of serfdom and in some cases whole villages vanished. Christian Louis who ruled Mecklenburg-Schwerin from 1658~until his death in 1692 was, like his father Adolphus Frederick, frequently at variance with the estates of the land and with members of his family. He was a Roman Catholic and a supporter of Louis XIV., and his country suffered severely during the wars waged by France and her allies in Germany.

In June I6Q2 when Christian Louis died in exile and without sons, a dispute arose about the succession to his duchy between his brother Adolphus Frederick and his nephew Frederick William. The emperor and the rulers of Sweden and of Brandenburg took part in this struggle which was intensified when, three years later, on the death of Duke Gustavus Adolphus, the family ruling over Mecklenburg-Giistrow became extinct. At length the partition Treaty of Hamburg was signed on the 8th of March 1701, and a new division of the country was made. Mecklenburg was divided between the two claimants, the shares given to each being represented by the existing duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the part which fell to Frederick William, and Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the share of Adolphus Frederick. At the same time the principle of primogeniture was again asserted, and the right of summoning the joint Landtag was reserved to the ruler of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Mecklenburg-Schwerin began its existence by a series of constitutional struggles between the duke and the nobles. The heavy debt incurred by Duke Charles Leopold (d. 1747), who nad joined Russia in a war against Sweden, brought matters to a crisis; the emperor Charles VI. interfered and in 1728 the imperial court of justice declared the duke incapable of governing and his brother Christian Louis was appointed administrator of the duchy. Under this prince, who became ruler de jure in 1747, there was signed in April 17 5 5 the convention of Rostock by which a new constitution was framed for the duchy. By this instrument all power was in the hands of the duke, the nobles and the upper classes generally, the lower classes being entirely unrepresented. During the Seven Years' War Duke Frederick (d. 1785) took up a hostile attitude towards Frederick the Great, and in consequence Mecklenburg was occupied by Prussian troops, but in other ways his rule was beneficial to the country. In the early years of the French revolutionary wars Duke Frederick Francis I. (1756-1837) remained neutral, and in 1803 he regained Wismar from Sweden, but in 1806 his land was overrun by the French and in ISOS he joined the Confederation of the Rhine. He was the first member of the confederation to abandon Napoleon, to whose armies he had sent a contingent, and in 1813-1814 he fought against France. In 181 5 he joined the Germanic Confederation (Bund) and took the title of grand duke. In 1819 serfdom was abolished in his dominions. During the movement of 1848 the duchy witnessed a considerable agitation in favour of a more liberal constitution, but in the subsequent reaction all the concessions which had been 9